No, Really—'Seriously?' McCain and Obama Define 'Rich'

McCain was smart not to fall into the class warfare trap.


In the middle of this blog's home page is a section called "Seriously?" in which someone's comments are quoted incredulously. It currently features John McCain and his reply at Saturday's Saddleback Forum when asked to define "rich": "I think if you're just talking about income," McCain said, "how about $5 million?"

To be fair to McCain, his answer was more nuanced than that.

As soon as he said it, he gave the following qualification (note, too, his own use of the word "seriously"):

I don't think, seriously that—the point is that I'm trying to make here seriously—and I'm sure that comment will be distorted, but the point is...that we want to keep people's taxes low and increase revenues.

...So it doesn't matter really what my definition of "rich" is because I don't want to raise anybody's taxes. I really don't. In fact, I want to give working Americans a better shot at having a better life. And we all know the challenges, my friends.

McCain's answer was a good one. He refused to play the game of defining "rich," because the premise of that game is that "rich" people aren't taxed enough. The percentage of one's income forked over to the federal government is hardly the best indicator of one's contributions to the American economy—not least because it assumes lawmakers spend the money wisely. Allow individuals to retain their earnings and they invest in companies, buy new cars, or remodel their houses—all of which keeps the economy humming. As hard as it is to imagine, even nitwitted Paris Hilton has her benefits. Her spending sprees keep shops open, salespeople employed, and importers, manufacturers, marketers, and a whole host of others in business.

But what was Barack Obama's answer to what constitutes rich? A family earning $250,000. Given that he proposes raising the top marginal rate to 39.6 percent, that would mean the family is left with $151,000—and that's before local, state, property, and sales taxes.

So for Obama, leaving a family with $151,000 means they're rich? Er, "Seriously?"